Friday, October 16, 2020

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: The BBC's problem is worse than "wokeish" bias
Last month, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the City of David organisation had complained to BBC executives about Rosie Garthwaite, a senior BBC producer working on a new documentary about Israeli activities in eastern Jerusalem. Its vice president wrote she had “repeatedly presented us with one-sided and inaccurate statements” and that the program “intends to vilify Israel, Jewish history and Jewish charities and present a number of false and misleading claims.”

The paper also discovered that Garthwaite admitted sharing “inaccurate” pro-Palestinian propaganda on social media and had shared several other false or controversial claims about Israel, including attacking “British duplicity” over the signing of the Balfour Declaration, wrongly suggesting Gaza’s “one” border was controlled by Israel and retweeting an article from Middle East Eye describing the troublemaker Ahed Tamimi as an “icon for Palestinian resistance.”

These are but a tiny sample of the BBC’s institutionalised hostility towards Israel. For years, it has uncritically recycled Palestinian propaganda as innately credible and true, while treating demonstrably factual Israeli statements as mendacious propaganda.

It systematically downplays or disregards Palestinian attacks on Israelis and generally treats any eruption of violence as a story which only “kicks off” (as one BBC reporter said gleefully during an escalation of hostilities) when Israel retaliates with force. Israeli victimisation is simply not seen as a story at all.

When Israel is forced to defend itself, the BBC frequently portrays its armed forces —the most ethical and human rights-obsessed military in the world — as monstrous child-killers and aggressive destroyers.

The immediate and demonstrable effect on the British population is hatred of Israel and a spike in attacks on British Jews. It is no exaggeration to say that when it comes to Israel, the issue is not BBC bias. It is BBC incitement to baseless hatred.

The BBC is regarded around the world as a byword for objectivity and accuracy. That’s why its departure from those ideals is so pernicious.

Perhaps the most chilling thing about it, though, is this. BBC executives are genuinely, painfully aware of the news outlet’s unique power and reach, and of their duty under its founding charter to uphold objectivity and fairness and hold the line for the middle ground.

But they are simply unable to process the fact that they view Israel, among other issues, through a profoundly distorting ideological prism. And that’s because they believe implacably that the positions they hold are unarguably objective and fair, that they do represent the middle ground, and that therefore by definition those who claim the BBC is biased are themselves extremists and can be safely disregarded.

In other words, BBC group-think is a hermetically-sealed thought system. Which is why, if whoever takes over at the top wants to restore the once iconic BBC to elementary standards of objectivity, fairness and decency, they will have their work cut out for them.
BBC tells CAA it cannot disclose how it has dealt with employee embroiled in antisemitism controversy, but today it has emerged that he has resigned, leaving questions about Corporation’s handling of the controversy
Campaign Against Antisemitism contacted the BBC this week for an update on how it has dealt with an employee caught in a controversy over antisemitic and trolling tweets, but the BBC refused to disclose whether it has taken any action beyond launching an investigation. Today, however, The Times has learned that the journalist, Nimesh Thaker, has resigned, leaving questions about how seriously the BBC took the matter and why it refuses to divulge its actions.

Last month, Campaign Against Antisemitism and the JC revealed that Mr Thaker, who has been a BBC journalist for more than twenty years at BBC World News, used a Twitter account in his name and then an anonymous account to post controversial and even antisemitic tweets, in clear breach of the BBC’s guidelines.

Mr Thaker used both accounts to conduct official BBC business as well.

Using an account in his own name, Mr Thaker posted tweets describing antisemitism accusations against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as “smears” and trolled public figures who were campaigning against antisemitism. He also used the account to troll Campaign Against Antisemitism and to harass the editor of the JC and the actress and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman, tweeting at them dozens of times. He has also retweeted controversial political activists who themselves have come under fire for antisemitism, such as the notorious antisemite Jackie Walker, trolled Labour MPs over antisemitism, and defended Ken Livingstone and supported the disgraced former Labour MP, Chris Williamson. He also trolled his own BBC colleagues. The JC showed that he also behaved similarly with an anonymous account.

The Culture Secretary called the revelations “very concerning”, and the BBC launched an investigation, during which Mr Thaker reportedly resigned, thereby apparently escaping scrutiny.
Rabbi Sacks, former chief rabbi of England, diagnosed with cancer
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, was recently diagnosed with cancer, a spokesperson for his office announced on Thursday.

"Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has been recently diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment to aid his recovery," a spokesperson for his office said.

Rabbi Sacks will be stepping back from his work for a short period of time to focus on his treatment. His office noted that he is looking to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible.

For those who wish include Rabbi Sacks in their prayers, his Hebrew name is Harav Ya’akov Zvi ben Liba.

Johnathan Tobin: Ban on Holocaust denial is not political censorship
The applause was nearly universal. After a determined campaign on the part of the Anti-Defamation League and a broad coalition of Jewish groups and other organizations, Facebook has agreed to ban posts that contain Holocaust denial on its ubiquitous site.

For Jews and others who are rightly concerned about the troubling rise of anti-Semitism, this is good news. Holocaust denial is something that has been promoted by the far-left, as well as by Israel haters such as Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who got his doctorate from a Moscow university with a thesis on Holocaust denial that was later published as a book. But most of the concern centers on white supremacists and others on the far-right who seek to deny the truth of the Shoah and minimize or falsify the number of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

This represents a 180-degree turnabout on the part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who came under a storm of criticism when, in the aftermath of the August 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., he defended the rights of Holocaust deniers to use his platform. At the time, he said he was defending the principle of free speech, a stance he reiterated a year later when he further pledged that his company would not fact check or censor political speech.

In the meantime, an effort to force him to change his mind – largely led by the ADL and supported by many other important Jewish groups – continued to gain ground. Last year, the issue got a lot of attention when actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen publicly challenged Zuckerberg at an ADL event in which he likened the social-media giant to a restaurant that chose to serve Nazis rather than kicking them out.

A proposed boycott of the site by those demanding a change in policy ramped up the pressure. But Zuckerberg says the belief that the hate promoted on Facebook led to an increase in anti-Semitism changed his mind.
Teacher who showed students Muhammad cartoons decapitated in Paris terror attack
A history teacher who had shown caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammed in class was on Friday decapitated and his assailant shot dead by French police as they tried to arrest him, police and prosecutors said.

The attacker, whose identity has not been established, shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he was confronted by police, a police source said. The Muslim phrase, meaning “Good is Great,” has often been heard in jihadist attacks.

French President Emmanuel Macron was to visit the scene of the attack later Friday, his office said.

French anti-terror prosecutors said they were investigating the assault which happened on the outskirts of Paris at around 5 pm (1500 GMT) near a school in Conflans Saint-Honorine, a western suburb of the French capital.

According to a police source, the victim was a history teacher who recently discussed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed in class.

Prosecutors said they were treating the incident as “a murder linked to a terrorist organization” and related to a “criminal association with terrorists.”

The allegations are similar to charges brought last month against a 25-year old Pakistani man who wounded two people in a meat cleaver attack to avenge the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
MEMRI: 'Charlie Hebdo' Attacker Zaheer Mahmoud Informed Mother And Friend In Pakistan Before Attack, His Father Says: 'His Entire Family Will Go To Paradise'
After the September 25, 2020 stabbing of two people outside the former Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the French police initially detained at least seven people, including the main suspect.[1]The main suspect is a Pakistani immigrant who gave his age as 18 and took "responsibility" for the stabbing.[2] Other reports give his age as 25.[3]

A court in France is hearing a 2015 case in which a dozen people, mainly editors, were killed by two jihadi brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi at the office of Charlie Hebdo after the weekly published cartoons depicting Muhammad. At least 14 accomplices of Said and Cherif Kouachi are standing trial for the 2015 attack. In this year's attack, the main attacker was identified as Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, whose family lives in the town of Mandi Bahauddin in Pakistan's Punjab province.

Following are excerpts from a report published in the pro-jihad Urdu Pakistani daily Roznama Ummat:[4]

"Zaheer Mahmoud Is Being Considered A Hero Across All Of Pakistan, Including [In The Town Of] Mandi Bahauddin"

"On the other side, Zaheer Mahmoud is being considered a hero across all of Pakistan, including Mandi Bahauddin. Zaheer Mahmoud's father Irshad Mahmoud says he is proud of his mujahid son. The relatives of the attack... present in Pakistan are proud of him. Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, born in Mandi Bahauddin, accepted the attack saying he carried out the attack as a reaction against Charlie Hebdo for publishing the blasphemous cartoons once again.

"It should be noted that a wave of anger and sadness ran through the entire Islamic world after the republication of the blasphemous cartoons by Charlie Hebdo recently at the beginning of the court trial of the case involving the 2015 attack on magazine, which is an enemy of Islam.

"During the protests in Pakistan against this blasphemous act, tribute was paid in glowing words to Zaheer Mahmoud, the main player in the [September 2020] Charlie Hebdo attack. At this time, Zaheer Mahmoud has been declared a hero in Mandi Bahauddin and the areas surrounding it... Zaheer Mahmoud belongs to the Kothli Qazi area of Mandi Bahauddin."
Tarek Fatah: Dead Silence on Islamism, 20 Years after USS Cole Bombing
Twenty years ago this week the American guided-missile destroyer USS Cole was bombed and disabled while refuelling in the harbour of the Yemeni port city of Aden by two jihadi suicide bombers sent by Al-Qaeda.

Seventeen American sailors were killed and another 39 were injured as the worldwide jihadi network exhibited its own David vs. Goliath show that ultimately led to the 9/11 attack.

One would have hoped that in the milieu of the 2020 U.S. elections, the anniversary of the USS Cole disaster would trigger some discussion on the country's national security.

But no. The fly that landed on Vice-President Mike Pence's head got time and space on CNN and America's liberal newspapers, but not one word on Al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood, who have a presence both inside and outside the U.S. and inspired the USS Cole attack and 9/11.

I do not wish to be the Prophet of Doom, but the dead silence in America on matters that threaten our civilization does cause me to worry. It seems America has learnt little in the decades since the CIA vs. FBI territorial tug of war that let Al-Qaeda hit the Twin Towers.

In 2013, President Obama made a cavalier declaration: "We (have) achieved our central goal ... which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can't attack us again."

Ilhan Omar Funnels 70 Percent of Campaign Expenditures to Husband’s Company
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) funneled an additional $1.1 million to her husband's company, bringing her total payments to the firm to $2.7 million for the election cycle, new filings show.

Omar's campaign filings, released Thursday, show that she sent $1.1 million more to the E Street Group, a political consulting firm owned by her husband, Tim Mynett. The payments account for nearly 70 percent of the $1.6 million Omar's campaign has disbursed between July 23 and the end of September. They have helped cover advertisements, consulting, travel expenses, and production costs.

Omar has faced criticism on a number of issues since she entered Congress in 2018. Among other things, her lack of transparency about her past marriages has come under fire, and the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board has ordered her to repay thousands for a campaign finance violation.

She now faces a complaint for potentially running afoul of House ethics rules in relation to an advance she received for her memoir.

The freshman "Squad" member has showered her husband's company with cash this cycle. The E Street Group is the highest paid vendor from the campaign, and Omar had already sent $1.6 million to the group.

With the $1.1. million in new payments, the firm has now received a total of $2.7 million from Omar's campaign for the 2020 elections.

Does Mark Ruffalo Have It In for Israel?
Ruffalo’s condemnation of Israel lacks balance and objectivity. There is no sign of empathy for the suffering of innocent Israelis, or any criticism of Hamas’ goal to destroy the Jewish state or of its reign of terror on both Israelis and its people. There is no call for reconciliation or compromise.

Whether he intends to or not, Ruffalo has repeatedly strayed into the demonization of the Jewish state and singling out Israel for unreasonably high standards — two of Natan Sharansky’s three tells for antisemitism. In 2014, the actor accused Israel of needlessly and heartlessly bombing a Gazan hospital, which is a modern-day blood libel.

He seems genuinely pained that people would think that he is antisemitic, yet falsely accuses the Jewish homeland of heinous acts and leaps to defend Hamas’ humanity. When it came out that the terrorist organization knowingly put patients in the line of fire, Ruffalo naively tweeted: “Do you honestly think these people [Hamas], these fellow human beings, would use their own children as shields? Use your heart.”

It is time to erase the delusory line between demonization of Israel and Jew-hatred, as the former feeds the latter. When people describe the Jewish state as racist and immoral, they are tilling the soil for global antisemitism.

Ruffalo is entitled to his opinion, but as a public figure with an outsized microphone, he must get the story straight. If he spent 30 minutes reading Hamas’ charter with its pledge to destroy Israel — or researched how it treats homosexuals and regards women, and contrasts it to the rights of gays, women, and minorities in Israel — he might be moved to treat all the players with a fair hand. Maybe then he may end up truly helping the Palestinian people.
Controversial Professor’s Views on Israel Prompt Concern Before Convention Appearance
A Jewish group is speaking out about the upcoming appearance of a Rutgers University professor who has been criticized for her antisemitic and anti-Israel writings, and who is set to serve as a keynote speaker this weekend at the New York State Communication Association’s 78th annual convention.

The American Jewish Committee sent a letter to the group in late August expressing concern about speaker Jasbir Puar, a professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the state university in New Jersey. In its letter, AJC said that Puar has “sought to lend academic legitimacy to a modern-day blood libel that the bodies of young Palestinians are being mined for organs for scientific research by Israel … ,” and that she advocates for “armed resistance to Israelis.”

“Such sentiments cross the line between legitimate criticism to incendiary demonization of the Jewish state. Simply put, there are no values advanced by giving her a forum to express her hateful and false views,” the AJC wrote in its letter.

They added that the topic of Puar’s Oct. 17 address—“Spatial Debilities: Slow Life and Carceral Capitalism in Palestine”—has little, if anything, to do with the association’s work.

“The NYSCA conference focuses on how individuals communicate personally and professionally, and the future of communication,” said AJC’s Long Island Regional Director Eric Post, one of the signatories to the letter. “Demonizing Israel because of alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians has nothing to do with this theme and takes away from the content of the conference.”

According to Post, a member of the NYSCA who is concerned about the speaker and her topic initially brought the matter to their attention.
Georgetown SJP to Host Speaker Who Tweeted Jews Are Known for Being ‘Sleazy Thieves’
On October 18, Georgetown University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter will be hosting a speaker who once tweeted that Jews are known for being “sleazy thieves.”

Georgetown SJP and the university’s Qatar SJP chapter will be hosting Miko Peled, an Israeli-born Jew who is the son of an Israeli general and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, on a Zoom webinar event titled “Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism.” The event is open to the public.

There have been calls for Georgetown to cancel the event. Walid Tamtam, an Arab student at the University of Toronto, wrote in The Times of Israel on October 15 that Peled has been canceled from speaking at prior events. Tamtam noted that in 2016, San Diego State University’s (SDSU) SJP chapter canceled Peled after he tweeted that “Jews have reputation [for] being sleazy thieves.” Peled was reacting to the ten-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the United States and Israel agreed to at the time.

“#apartheidisrael doesn’t need or deserve these $$,” Peled wrote.

Following that tweet, SDSU SJP announced their Facebook page that they would be canceling Peled’s speaking event because his comments were “offensive,” although they claimed that Peled’s “comments are not reflective of Mr. Peled’s principles or character.” The Princeton Committee on Palestine also canceled its Peled speaking event at the time over his remarks.

Peled defended his comments by stating in a Facebook post that “the very people who cry anti Semitism all day long are demanding billions of dollars. This is criminal and it lends itself to the claims of Jews being sleazy money grabbing [people]. It’s not my tweet that gives legitimacy to the stereotype – it’s the actions of the government of Israel that causes hatred of Jews. And since they claim Israel represents Jews and mainstream Jews in the US Support Israel the danger in making the stereotype fit is clear. (h/t Zvi)
Anti-hate groups call on Tufts U. to oust antisemitic dental student
Adam Elayan, a current dental student at Tufts University, has been spouting antisemitic rhetoric since 2012. Now, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), is imploring Tufts' president, Dr. Anthony Monaco, to remove him.

"Tufts can and should ensure a level playing field when dealing with bigotry -- including when that bigotry targets Jews," wrote Rabbi Cooper in a letter. "The Jewish community is under assault from another virus which has no known cure or vaccine -- the virus of [antisemitic] hatred.

“It manifests in brutal attacks on the streets of major cities, in desecrations of synagogues and cemeteries by Jew-haters," he continued. "The hatred, repackaged for online consumption by new generations, is promoted and marketed 24/7 across multiple social media platforms, spawning violent lone wolf domestic terrorist attacks and poisoning impressionable young minds."

Canary Mission, an organization that tracks and combats antisemitism in all its forms on college campuses throughout the US, has been tracking Elayan's activity since late 2016. His remarks are collected mainly from Twitter, where his handle was once @FalasteenPrince. The account no longer exists.

According to the SWC, Tufts' dental school has a "long history of hateful and violent threats against Jews."
Omission and inaccuracy in old and new BBC reporting on Lebanon-Israel border
That article includes the following false claim: “According to some reports, Israel moved Ethiopian Jews, known as Falashas, to the Shebaa farms in the 1980s.”

In addition to the question of why the BBC chose to promote the derogatory term ‘Falashas’, one may wonder where it got the idea that Israel had “moved Ethiopian Jews…to the Shebaa farms” – a military zone.

The answer to that question was provided by Avi Jorisch in 2002:

“Hizballah’s own website ( states the following about Shebaa: […] Ethiopian Jewish immigrants have settled in Shebaa.”

Jorisch clarified that:

“…there are no Israelis living on “Israeli” Shebaa, as it is a restricted military zone.”

In other words, the BBC amplified a false claim made by a terrorist organisation while whitewashing its source.

The same article also claims that the Shebaa Farms area “includes a ski station”. The ski resort is of course located on Mount Hermon, which is not part of the Shebaa Farms area.

With the talks concerning the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon set to continue in the coming weeks, the BBC would clearly do well to make the effort to avoid omissions and inaccuracies which hinder audience understanding of the full context to that story and the additional issue of the land border between Israel and Lebanon.

White supremacist pleads guilty in plot to blow up Colorado synagogue
A self-described white supremacist pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal hate crime and explosive charges for a botched plot to blow up a historic Colorado synagogue last year, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Richard Holzer, 28, who was arrested in November following an undercover FBI sting, admitted to planning to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, the US Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Holzer, who lived in Pueblo, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to obstruct religious services by force, and to one count of trying to destroy a building used in interstate commerce, according to a plea agreement filed in US District Court in Denver.

The temple, built in 1900, is the second oldest synagogue in Colorado and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism as they involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that were intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population,” US Attorney Jason Dunn said in a statement.
Swedish Muslim 'Integration Expert' Wrote Antisemitic Social Media Posts For Years
A Swedish Muslim “integration expert” and school principal has admitted to making antisemitic and homophobic comments online for years under a pseudonym.

Over a period between 2011 and 2016, Hamid Zafar is said to have made numerous offensive posts on different websites and social media platforms and has claimed that they were made in reaction to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, where he was born, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“In retrospect, I look back on it as a very destructive period. But that’s what it looks like on social media, there’s a lot of opinions and I was part of it,” Zafar told Swedish broadcaster SVT after newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed his comments.

Zafar, who worked as an integration expert for the centre-right Moderate Party, added, “Since I have re-evaluated my opinions, I have thought that it would come to light, that it was only a matter of time.”

According to Dagens Nyheter, Zafar made several comments including one on a book about the Holocaust for Swedish students saying, “The purpose of the book is to create a kind of collective mass psychosis in which students are fed with how terrible the Holocaust was.”

He also spoke against the highly liberal and pro-LGBT Chruch of Sweden saying to another person on Twitter, “What does your master say about blessing sodomites in His Church?”
Employee who ran QAnon conspiracy-theory website with 10m visitors sacked
An employee was sacked by one of the world’s leading banking groups after he was found to be running a conspiracy theory website which attracted millions of visitors.

An investigation into Jason Gelinas, an information technology specialist with New York City-based Citigroup, began after a fact checking website showed that Mr Gelinas was the “sole developer and mouthpiece” of a QAnon website. This was apparently in violation of Citigroup’s policy of engaging in paid business activity outside the company. He was put “on leave in mid-September” while the investigation was pending, and was subsequently sacked.

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that believes that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, consisting of political figures, celebrities and billionaires, is running a global paedophilic ring and plotting against the President, who is planning to make a stand against the secret group.

At the height of its popularity, Mr Gelinas’s site was attracting ten million visitors a month, according to the traffic-tracking organisation, SimilarWeb. It also reported that the site was receiving around $3,320 (£2,654) a month in donations made via Patreon, a US-based artists’ platform.

The firing came within days of an announcement by Facebook that it will no longer host pages linked to QAnon in line with its policy of stopping the promotion of conspiracy theories.
NY congressional candidate’s signs vandalized with antisemitic graffiti
At least a dozen campaign signs supporting a Jewish congressional candidate were defaced with antisemitic graffiti.

At least one sign supporting Josh Eisen’s campaign was tagged with the words “Nazi lover,” according to News12, a local station in Westchester County.

“I wouldn’t think someone would have to go through some criminal proceeding over this, but someone needs to understand this is unacceptable and despicable,” Eisen said.

Eisen is running as an independent to represent New York’s 17th congressional district, an area north of New York City that covers Rockland County and part of Westchester and has a large Jewish population. The solidly Democratic district is currently represented by retiring Democrat Nita Lowey, who is Jewish.

The congressional race is expected to be won by the Democratic nominee, Mondaire Jones, whose campaign spokesperson said in a statement to News 12 that they “wholeheartedly condemn all hate” and “take all acts of antisemitism very seriously.”
Disbelief, Fury Among French Jews as Paris Swastika Vandal Escapes Charge of Antisemitism
French Jews continued to react furiously on Thursday to the announcement from the Paris public prosecutor’s office that antisemitic provocation was not among the charges facing a man who allegedly sprayed series of large red swastikas along the French capital’s landmark Rue de Rivoli last weekend.

In a post on Twitter, CRIF — the representative body of French Jews — declared its “total incomprehension” at the prosecutors’ decision.

“How can you spray 20 swastikas without being prosecuted for antisemitism?” CRIF asked.

The offender in the case — a 31-year-old man from the Republic of Georgia — will be remanded in police custody until his trial begins.

But while he faces charges of causing damage to property, the prosecutor’s office insisted that there was no legal basis for a crime aggravated by religious or racial hatred.

The prosecutor’s reasoning was based on the observation that the swastikas were daubed on the columns of a building with no historic Jewish associations, and therefore “the damage was committed without specifically targeting buildings identified as being linked to the Jewish community.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer in the case representing LICRA — a leading civic organization combating antisemitism and racism in France — declared herself “stupefied” by the decision.

The decision not to include antisemitism among the charges was also a “great moment of indignation and anger,” lawyer Dorothée Bissacia-Bernstein tweeted, adding: “To be continued.”

Jewish family’s painting looted by Nazis, spotted in NY, returned to its heirs
A painting of two young, 19th-century skaters that was looted by Nazis from a Jewish family in 1933 and recently discovered at a small museum in upstate New York was returned Thursday after 87 years.

The painting “Winter,” by American artist Gari Melchers, was part of a cache of more than 1,000 pieces of art and artifacts seized from the Mosse family, prominent and well-off Jewish residents of Berlin who became early targets of the Nazi Party. Heirs have been tenaciously seeking to recover the lost pieces for the past decade.

“The Mosse family lost nearly everything because they were Jews. But they did not lose hope,” acting US Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette Bacon said at a repatriation ceremony at the Albany FBI office. “While this certainly does not take away the pain that the Mosses endured, I hope it provides the family with some measure of justice.”

The Mosse Art Restitution Project was started in 2011 to locate and restitute the stolen artworks on behalf of the Mosse heirs. They have completed three dozen restitutions covering more than 50 items from public and private museums as well as private individuals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Israel and the United States.

The road to this restitution started after the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York, noted its seasonal closing in January 2017 with a friendly Facebook post urging readers to “Enjoy Winter!”

The post was illustrated with an image of the painting “Winter.”
Yad Vashem to honor Poles who hid Polanski during WWII in Thursday ceremony
Israel was set Thursday to honor the Polish couple who hid Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski from the Nazis as a child, according to Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

The late Stefania and Jan Buchala will receive the Yad Vashem title of “Righteous Among the Nations” for those who helped save Jews during World War II.

“Despite their very difficult economic situation, the couple agreed to take in the Jewish boy as their own son, and keep him safe,” Yad Vashem said.

Their grandson will accept the medal at the ceremony in southern Poland, which has been kept under wraps for security reasons and which local media say Polanski himself could attend.

The controversial film director was just six years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, triggering the war and forcing the family into the Krakow Ghetto.

After his father smuggled him out through the barbed wire and got friends to take him in, Polanski was shuffled around, then sent to the Buchalas. Devout Catholic peasants with three small children, they gave him shelter for nearly two years in the village of Wysoka, asking for nothing in return.
Stuck at home? This film school wants you to make a movie about it
Ma’aleh Film School wants everyone to take a brief break from Netflix and make their own short films about home, now that everyone’s spending so much time there.

The Jerusalem film school launched “Homeward,” a home movie competition, soliciting creators to make movies of up to two minutes about home.

Movies must be received by Sunday, October 18 and the three best films will win prizes of $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000. Five audience favorites will win $500 each.

“We’ve never had a situation before in which the entire world is dealing with the same condition,” said Neta Ariel, Ma’aleh’s director. “We’re all in the same boat, all dealing with this pandemic, and all stuck at home.”

The school created a competition that is open to anyone and any kind of film, said Ariel, given that they can make a two-minute film on their phone.

Ma’aleh joined forces with other organizations with which it works on a regular basis, including the Joint Distribution Committee, Nefesh b’Nefesh and the Jerusalem municipality, while getting a boost from local celebrities, including writer David Grossman, singer Yehoram Gaon, local chefs and a comedian.

The judging panel includes Hollywood producers Zvi Howard Rosenman and Nancy Spielberg, actress Ayelet Zurer, and “Shtisel” screenwriter and creator Ori Elon, who is a graduate of Ma’aleh.

IAI partners with Australian firm to build autonomous mining fleet
In the near future, fleets of autonomous trucks and bulldozers will work at mining sites in Australia, communicating with one another and with control stations as they move raw materials and conduct heavy earth work.

The vehicles will use technology provided by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which announced at the end of September a new joint venture with Australian logistics and materials company, Bis Industries.

Together, the two companies founded a joint venture called Auto-Mate, which will provide autonomous systems for the mining industry.

"The idea is to convert existing vehicles into autonomous platforms," Elad Abbo, vice president of strategy and product at Auto-mate, and a former deputy manager of robotics at IAI-Elta, said.

"We are talking about networks of vehicles linked by a data system to control centers that plans their missions, tracks them and conducts debriefings, if necessary," said Abbo.

According to an official statement, Auto-Mate combines the "demonstrated operational experience of Bis in the mining sector with IAI's industry-leading in autonomous technologies."
5 start-up hubs to watch – beyond Silicon Valley
2. Israel

Tel Aviv, often dubbed ‘the city that never sleeps’, is famed for being Israel’s start-up capital. Israel - often dubbed the 'start-up nation' – has the highest concentration of start-ups per capita globally and is the global leader in deep technologies. With barely any available natural resources, Israel has pursued a path of embracing innovation early on in numerous industries such as water, agriculture and ICT with the aim of becoming the world’s leading powerhouse. The spirit of ‘chutzpah’ (A Yiddish word that means audacity and extreme self-confidence), constant questioning and challenging of the status quo, combined with an ambitious aim to target global markets from the get-go due to its small domestic market, have created an aggressive entrepreneurial mindset within the country. Global tech giants such as Google and Microsoft saw huge opportunities and potential in Israel and, as such, support start-ups in the country both with investment and acquisition. Many entrepreneurs that enjoy successful exits become serial entrepreneurs and patrons to new start-ups that are being formed by the great flow of human capital in Israel, and this virtuous cycle keeps the ecosystem sustainable and vibrant.

Israel's compulsory military service also plays a part, by providing unique programmes for conscripts that boost their technological skills and help to nurture their creative mindset – all of which encourages them to pursue an entrepreneurial path after leaving the service.

The Innovation Authority of Israel has broadened its mandate to further foster Israel's innovation ecosystem. This body is responsible for developing innovation infrastructure, provides grants and financial support for innovative technologies and connects the Israeli economy with the outside, as well as promoting and encouraging programmes, policies and laws, all to maintain Israel’s status as the 'start-up nation'. Israeli start-ups raised a record $8.3 billion in funding in 2019, a rise of 30% on the previous year, thanks to larger foreign capital investment pouring in, driving industries such as software, internet, life sciences and semiconductors.

There has been a significant rise in investment in AI companies as well as in traditionally strong sectors such as cybersecurity, life sciences and fintech.
The Afterlife
In November of 2018, at the National Arts Club in New York City, I attended a screening for the film Sobibor, which was described in the program as “First Russian Oscar Contender About Holocaust” (sic). The screening was part of a promotional campaign to secure a nomination in the best foreign film category, and was presented by the film’s producers, along with the Alexander Pechersky Foundation and the Russian American Foundation. Annexed to the auditorium where the screening was to happen was a small exhibition about Alexander “Sasha” Pechersky and the uprising he led at the Sobibor concentration camp, which was the subject of the film.

Konstantin Khabensky, the film’s star and director, had come to the screening from Russia. A panel of historians and experts was convened. The audience consisted of members of the local Jewish community and the Jewish press, not a few of them Russian-speaking. A group of elderly Russian Jewish war veterans, some in uniform, all decorated with their medals, were seated near the front of the room. Among them was a woman who wore a yellow star button on her blouse to identify her as a Holocaust survivor.

In opening remarks, a scholar of Soviet Holocaust cinema commended the producers for making a Russian film about the Holocaust, a suppressed subject for most of the Soviet period. In fact, any acknowledgment of the unique nature of the tragedy experienced by Soviet Jews in painting, sculpture, poetry, fiction, history, public monuments and other forms of remembrance was practically forbidden. In a nation that suffered so profoundly, with as many as 27 million citizens perishing during the war, the official position was that it was wrong to divide the victims. At sites of mass killings, if there was any commemoration at all, it memorialized “peaceful Soviet citizens” who had died at the hands of “the German occupiers.” Sobibor might therefore be regarded as the Russian equivalent to Schindler’s List.

Films are subjective things and it’s not my intention to engage in criticism of a film released two years ago. Also, the quality of the film is of negligible importance to the larger story of Alexander Pechersky’s life and legacy. But there were many people in the auditorium who were moved to tears by the film, gasped at acts of brutality or laughed at an incident of comeuppance against the Nazis, just like they were watching a regular movie. Unless they’d read the literature about Sobibor and Pechersky, none could have detected the places where the film departed from historical fact, though a partial list would include: Leon Feldhendler (spelled “Felhendler” in recently-discovered archival documents), one of the leaders of the camp underground, wasn’t killed during the revolt; Pechersky didn’t carry the corpse of a young woman named Luka out of the camp in his arms; a Nazi named Frenzel wasn’t shot by Pechersky; there was no crematorium smokestack in Sobibor; and Shlomo Szmajzner, a young Polish prisoner, didn’t, as the end titles assert, hunt down and kill Gustav Wagner, perhaps the camp’s most notoriously brutal SS officer, and 17 other Nazis in Brazil.

At the conclusion of the film, one audience member did inquire about historical accuracy, in response to which the gathered historians offered a general defense of the artist’s right to bend documentary truth for the sake of the emotional one. The Holocaust survivor, a small but pugnacious woman in the Russian Jewish mold, rose to praise the film, which she had now watched for the second time, though it caused her pain in every cell in her body. “Never again!” she proclaimed. One of the veterans took the floor and affirmed that the film showed what had happened in his generation and hoped it would serve as a lesson for the future. He proceeded to make some observations about Arab aggression and, after meeting with a mixed response, resumed his seat.

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